Cuzco is said to date back to 1100 AD and today is an aesthetically wonderful mix of Spanish and Incan influence; Incan sights such as the Temple of the Sun are not too distant from the Baroque colonial church of Santo Domingo and the labyrinthine cobbled walkways that snake through the city. The excellently preserved Incan walls and the ruins of Sacsayhuaman add an extra historical dimension, whilst the traditional Quechuan markets are juxtaposed with some of the country’s most contemporary restaurants and hotels. It is without doubt a perfect base for exploring the outlying regions.
The alluring Machu Picchu is most impressively seen from the original trail of the Incas, which starts from the Sacred Valley near to Ollantaytambo and can take between three to five days. The natural scenery here is beautiful and inspiring, passing by rivers, valleys such as Pacamayo and other ruin sites like Sayacmarca. At points the views stretch over the whole Vilacabamba Range. Your arrival at Intipunku is the setting for your first view of Machu Picchu, and from there you will explore the many terraces, temples, fountains and palaces of this infamous ancient site. The Salkantay route is a wonderfully luxurious alternative to the original trail.
The rest of the Sacred Valley contains peaceful hillside and quaint market towns such as Pisac and its Incan Fortress set atop the mountainside and Urubamba, which is backed by snowy peaks and the important sites of Chinchero. Here an interesting church has been built on an Inca temple and in Moray open-air colosseums were used by Inca as a nursery for crops.